By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
On the third Sunday in September, my Springfield, Massachusetts transgender support group, UniTy, once again marched in the Annual Springfield Puerto Rican Parade. This was the fifth consecutive year we have marched in this parade and every year we always have a great time and have felt the love from the parade spectators. We started the march at the north end of town and we marched down Main Street to the downtown area. Along the way, on Main Street, there were thousands of onlookers who warmly greeted us— many cheered us on—and it felt wonderful!
This year’s theme of the parade was “Estamos Unidos,” which means, “We are united.” I agree, we all need to be united. As American founding father, John Dickinson urged in his pre-Revolutionary song, “The Liberty Song,” “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” Yes, united we stand, divided we fall!
Let me tell you, the parade-goers were very much in tune in uniting with our transgender support group. I heard the cheers and it felt great! I know that there are transgender Puerto Ricans in Springfield but I didn’t see any in the crowd that were visible that day. I’m sure there must have been some. I hope that seeing us march in the parade gave them hope and made them smile.
Those in the crowd warmly cheered us on as we marched. I remember early in the parade there was a man waving the biggest Puerto Rican flag I ever saw. He was pretty adept at waving his flag and, as I marched by him, he gently waved the flag over my head. I looked at his flag, then looked at mine, which was a tiny handheld Puerto Rican flag, and then looked back again at his gigantic flag. We both laughed! It felt really great to share a laugh with a new friend.
Just a little further down Main Street was a group of young women who began cheering us on with incredible love and energy. I began dancing as I marched by them and they elevated their spirits and cheered even louder! They were so amazing that I hated to leave them behind, since I had to keep marching.
All through the march, I spotted some older women who cheered us on and gave me a “You go girl, I’m a queer person too!” kind of look. It felt incredible to connect with other folks in the LGBTQ community, as we share so many intersectionalities. No matter who you are, if you are LGBTQ, you are family!
My favorite part of the parade was when we marched by an area where there were lots of spectators and they were fairly close to us on the sides of Main Street. They cheered so loudly and waved flags so excitedly that I felt like I was in another world, a utopian-like world of love and acceptance that made me smile from ear to ear.
So, what did I learn from marching in the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade? I learned that many people there accepted, supported, and cheered transgender people. If we didn’t march that day, there would be no revelation of them cheering and showing support for us and no connection or memory would be made between them and us. The parade also brought another revelation to me. It solidified the concept to continue to be visible so that other folks can see and get to know us. Yes, the more visibility there is, the more people will tend to accept and support us. It reminded me of what Harvey Milk, the famous gay American politician and mover and shaker, said by imploring people to “come out,” be noticed, and be visible. These actions can really make a big difference.
Being visible as a transgender person and interacting positively with others can bring wonderful results and can help to further our cause. Yes, be visible when you can!
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has 3 children and two grandchildren. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.